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Visiting Motorola HQ: Back on track despite weak updates

Motorola is a pioneer of mobile communications and a manufacturer of many breakthrough products, such as the StarTAC mobile phone. In recent years, the company has not only lost a bit of its shine, but has also changed owners twice. Now, it finally wants to get back on the road to success. During a visit to Motorola's Chicago headquarters, we were told how it plans to do so.

Loud rock music blares from loudspeakers in the large meeting room on the 19th floor of the Mart. Music is synonymous with Chicago, the city where the Mart is located. The "Mart" has a history: built in the 1920s and completed in the 1930s, it was the largest building in the world in its day. It fits in with Motorola, which is almost the same age, at 89 years old. Only the size of the company has suffered quite a bit in recent years. At its peak, the company had over 50,000 employees. Today, following the breakup of the group into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions, there are over 900 at the headquarters of the smartphone unit in Chicago.

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The building on the right with the yellow dome is the Mart. / © AndroidPIT

Back to success with innovation and better marketing?

Motorola, now owned by the Chinese company Lenovo, has had an eventful history. Once celebrated as a pioneer of mobile communications and a driver of innovation, the crash of the brand came along with the success of smartphones. The time-honored company missed the boat by focusing too much on past successes, and evolving without keeping customer expectations in focus.

After a few thorny years, a takeover by Lenovo, and some unwieldy attempts to give the brand a new face, Motorola's headquarters are back on track, ready to compete and regain market share.

And indeed, the statement the brand makes now is much clearer than it was two years ago. At that time, the plan was to put the name Motorola to sleep and turn the veteran brand into the upbeat and short "moto". Apparently this was a mistake, and today Motorola is aware of its legacy again. Everywhere in the Chicago HQ, you see the full name "Motorola" and the "Batwing" - the famous Motorola logo - proudly adorns the walls. Sometimes it's stamped into an aluminum wall, sometimes it's sprayed on the wall as graffiti. But it's always feels always modern, cool and contemporary.

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The Batwing is on display everywhere in the Chicago HQ. / © AndroidPIT

The sales figures of Motorola rise again significantly

Generally, in terms of marketing, Motorola is going in a more contemporary direction - that means loud, cheeky colors and being different. "We need to take risks" is the credo. With the Moto Mods, it has done exactly this, and quite well at that. Moto Mods are attachable modules that let you quickly expand the capabilities of the Motorola Z series smartphones by simply clicking them on. They are quite an innovation. "We want to get out of the commodity," says Motorola product chief Jeff Snow.

The plan seems to be working. While customers were initially quite skeptical about the Mods, today they are the number one reason for buying with a customer satisfaction of 80-95%. Customer satisfaction also seems to affect the sales success, as the sales figures have increased by 37% compared to last year.

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A wallpaper that shows history: Motorola has made a lot of moves in the mobile market. / © AndroidPIT

How does the update policy fit into its promise of quality?

"We want to offer very good quality at a fair price," says Jeff Snow. But how does that fit with the update policy, I wanted to know. On this point, Motorola is scolded again and again by the community. "We're releasing a security update every month," is the answer. And the software chief, Dave Yen, adds that the adjustments for Android O were very time-consuming. "We will be able to bring out updates much faster with this work. However, the chipset manufacturers also need a lot of time. Updates are really a complex topic."

Motorola is back in a time when boredom is often spreading in the smartphone market. It seems that everything has already been seen and experienced. The only record setting in the market is in terms of the prices of top phones, rather than real innovations, whether from Google, Apple or Samsung. 

Things are only looking up for this established brand make a comeback and to shake up the smartphone market status quo. For the sake of users, you have to wish Motorola luck.

What do you think? Is Motorola back on the winning track?

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  • so Lenovo buy one of the biggest globally recognised brand names "Motorola" ditch most of the staff, and then decide to ditch the name and go for "moto".. wtf was Lenovo thinking..
    now Lenovo seem to have recovered some business sense and realised what they actually paid millions for... basically the brand Motorola and access to a remarkable patent portfolio..
    personally I'm more Motorola fan, 2nd gen Moto X and Nexus 6 and not so impressed with Lenovo...


  • The only Motorola I will or would buy ever again will be a Nexus 6


  • I really dig my Moto E4 Plus, too. With just a few app substitutions (especially the excellent "drupe" for dialer/contacts), extra memory, and setting adjustments -- maybe $50 of investment -- it performs as well as phones costing twice as much. The single-finger-sensor's slider control is wonderful and as has been mentioned, the fast-charging battery lasts for two days even with constant use.

    The phone is durable -- the glass face is tough --and the WiFi and Bluetooth work remarkably well throughout our large home and yard. The phone feels good in my hand and sounds great driving a speaker or two. And the camera's easy to use and highly adaptable with the Open Camera app, as good as a top-tier last-generation Samsung's.

    I'm into audio more than video, so though Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, etc., all play fine, Tune-In Radio Pro, Public Radio Fan, and PocketCasts are essential: they've made my E4 Plus a constant companion while doing the dishes, working, and driving.

    Two beefs:

    I wish Motorola/Lenovo would invest in an Oreo upgrade, not the biggest challenge for this relatively simple phone. Its absence is holding down sales now and will in the future, simply because M/L won't be trusted to upgrade any model of phone. This is a big mistake.

    Secondly, and related, M/L hasn't released a security update since June 2017, according to my phone. Six months is a long time to wait in today's fast-changing security vs. hackers environment.

    Otherwise, the Moto E4 Plus is actually better than the hype that preceded its availability. Strategically, with just a little more support and mods, it could become the volume leader in the ever-growing category of Everyman and Everywoman smartphones. Good job.


  • Sometimes I just give in with people who fight tooth and nail to get to be the first with the latest IPhone or Galaxy which is virtually the same as the previous version except it is EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE.
    Ask them WHY they are so anxious to make Apple or Samsung even wealthier and they say “well I just wanted one”.
    For several years now I have had a Moto phone, the original Moto X and now a G 4 Plus.
    They have been TERRIFIC PHONES.
    My current G 4 Plus cost about $200 and has virtually every feature that can be found in phones costing 4 times as much. It has TURBOCHARGING and it works, it has a FINGERPRINT sensor and it works. It is fast, reliable, good looking with a terrific camera.
    Sometimes my colleagues show me their new $700 to $1,000 phones with pride but when they match it to my Moto G 4 the smile quickly disappears from their faces.
    Ah well I suppose the old adage of “the idiots will always be with us” is true.
    BUY A MOTO G 4 PLUS or the newer MOTO G 5, you WILL NOT REGRET IT AND YOU WILL SAVE A TON OF MONEY.


  • I've had a motorola E4 for a few months now and love it! The battery last for days and have no problems (like below). (I hope his was just a fluke). The only thing I would like to see is a better camera, it's good/average but I think Motorola can do better. Other than that the phone is fast and I like the fingerprint reader addition. I wish they'd upgrade it to Oreo but that's not going to happen, so as long as they do security patches every month like they stated I'll be happy.


  • Sorry but I had to get a new device on the whim due to my still in use Nexus 4 with oreos battery dying so while waiting for a new battery I got this Moto E4 for basically nothing 49usd and I could not wait for my battery to come soon enough.
    In less than 60 days of use, (because I use a custom ROM on my Nexus 4 and it's Oreo it does get buggy so) the screen broke, supposedly gorilla glass on it, it claims to be water resistant I never opened it until adding an SD card and the battery shows red water mark, oh and the best feature thus far is when total audio shuts down and you can't hear the phone ring, button sounds go off and messaging alerts fail, and a reboot is needed, my favorite feature. The device seems to be made cheaply. It's only attributes are nougat 7.1.1 for it's price, and a great battery other than that, I'll stick to my device made in 2012 that just took it's first Oreo update. Sorry Motorola, there was a reason the star tac was my last device by you


    • Being a Motorola fan for the last 10 years and owning the original turbo, turbo2 & Zforce. Your latest Z2force is the worst release of 2017. You downgraded the battery & no OIS with the camera is a poor excuse for a flagship. When your mid-ranger the g5plus becomes your best I see trouble in Lenovo land. You lost a great fan!


      • I really don't think the Motorola takeover by Lenovo has been a good thing. Many may disagree but when a mid-range the g5plus becomes your best release what's that say for your premium flagship the z2force? When you don't incorporate OIS with the camera to me that becomes a problem. Plus a downgraded does not help the cause. 2730mamp compared to last years 3500mamp makes the battery mod imperative. So that's more money for an already expensive phone. No Lenovo your ploy is not gonna get me. I was a great Motorola fan but now I will go elsewhere!

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